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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Weekly Wager | The Daily Iowan’s official bettor’s guide for Week 15 of the Iowa football season

Each week during the Iowa football season, Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Matt McGowan and Action Network College Football Editor Pete Ruden will place three hypothetical bets of $100. Their picks are listed below and will be tracked throughout the year.
Iowa+quarterback+Deacon+Hill+passes+the+pall+during+a+football+game+between+No.+18+Iowa+and+No.+2+Michigan+at+Lucas+Oil+Stadium+in+Indianapolis+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+2%2C+2023.+The+Wolverines+lead+the+Hawkeyes%2C+10-0%2C+after+the+first+half.+Hill+totaled+120+passing+yards+and+was+sacked+four+times.+
Cody Blissett
Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill passes the pall during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. The Wolverines lead the Hawkeyes, 10-0, after the first half. Hill totaled 120 passing yards and was sacked four times.

Pete Ruden’s (24-15 for $2,175) Picks: 

Tennessee -7.5

Iowa hasn’t played a team like Tennessee this season.

Josh Heupel’s offense ranks second nationally in seconds per play, running one every 21.3 seconds. Combine that with a top-30 rank in Passing Success Rate and an average of over 450 yards per game, and it gets a little easier to see how the Volunteers score on this stingy Iowa defense — especially with Cooper DeJean out.

But things get even scarier on the other side of the ball.

Tennessee ranks top-20 in Defensive Rushing Success Rate and Defensive Line Yards. The Hawkeyes have found a modicum of success against teams that can’t control the line of scrimmage this year, but the Vols aren’t one of those teams.

Iowa will have to attack Tennessee through the air, as the Volunteers rank 59th in defensive passing success rate. 

However, that’s an unlikely avenue to success.

As much as Deacon Hill has improved as the season has progressed, he has still completed less than 50% of his passes and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. Iowa ranks 130th in catchable ball rate and 132nd in on-target rate, and considering Hill was sacked four times against Michigan, I don’t expect those numbers to improve much.

Meanwhile, on the other side, Joe Milton is coming off his best game of the season — a 383-yard, four-touchdown performance against Vanderbilt. I haven’t been a fan of Milton’s game this season, but he has at least shown potential, while Iowa’s offense has not.

Our Action Network projection makes Tennessee an 11.5-point favorite, so laying just over a touchdown here is cool with me.

Under 36.5

It would be rude of me to close the season with anything other than an Iowa under.

The flow of this game is going to be incredibly intriguing, considering Tennessee ranks second nationally in seconds per play (21.3) and Iowa ranks 99th (28.8).

But ultimately, both defenses are better than both offenses.

With significantly superior metrics defending the ground game, Tennessee might keep Iowa out of the end zone. The fact that Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz will continually try to establish the run despite being overmatched only means more time will fly off the clock.

On the other side, Iowa has the pieces to at least keep Tennessee at bay. The Vols rank 38th in Rushing Success Rate and 30th in Passing Success Rate, so an Iowa defense that sits top-15 in both areas defensively could cause problems.

Additionally, Tennessee comes in at 94th in Offensive Finishing Drives, while the Hawkeyes rank fifth in that area on defense. That means the Vols will likely settle for field goals instead of touchdowns more often than not. 

While Tennessee may eventually pull away with a comfortable win, I don’t expect Iowa to give up as many points as it did to Michigan.

Lock of the Week: Jacksonville State -3 vs. Louisiana

So much of handicapping bowl season comes down to motivation, which is easier said than done when you’re talking about 18- to 22-year-olds.

However, Jacksonville State is a team that 100% wants to be here.

With an 8-4 season, the Gamecocks had to sweat out whether or not they would actually be allowed to play in a bowl game. Incredibly stupid NCAA rules forbid a team making the transition from FCS to FBS to play in the postseason unless there aren’t enough six-win teams to fill out all of the bowls.

Luckily for Jax State, there weren’t enough teams that won six games, allowing it to slide into the New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana.

The Gamecocks have to feel slighted by the NCAA after nearly playing well enough to make the Conference USA Championship but knowing they wouldn’t have a chance to play in that game anyway. 

On the field, Jacksonville State should crush Louisiana on the ground. The Gamecocks rank 44th in rushing success rate and will face a Ragin’ Cajuns defense that sits 120th or worse in defensive rushing success rate and defensive line yards.

Expect a heavy dose of running back Malik Jackson and quarterback Zion Webb, who have combined for nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. 

That advantage should only be further exacerbated by starting linebacker Kendré Gant entering the transfer portal for Louisiana. 

While the Gamecocks should dominate on the ground, they should also hold their own in the run game on the other side of the ball. The Ragin’ Cajuns may rank top-30 in rushing success rate and offensive line yards, but Jax State sits fourth and fifth in those areas on the defensive side of the ball, respectively.

With a few key advantages and motivation on their side, I expect the Gamecocks to come out of their first bowl game with a W. 

I was lucky enough to get Jax State as a 1.5-point underdog when lines opened, but I’d still take it as a field-goal favorite, which is where the line sits as of writing.

Matt McGowan’s (27-12 for $2,445) Picks: 

Tennessee -7.5 

In my heart, I believe Iowa has the chance to compete against any team, but all the Tennessee offense has to do is score two touchdowns and it’s all over for the Hawkeyes. As I write this, the Volunteers have announced some transfers, including defensive lineman Tyler Baron, who is second on the team in sacks this season. These absences will give Iowa some leverage, but Deacon Hill and Co. have yet to put up two touchdowns since Week 12 against Illinois. It would be a big boost if Hawkeye tight end Luke Lachey were to somehow play in this game, but his status is still unclear. 

Any game against a ranked opponent is never a good sign for Iowa, and an SEC school like Tennessee has seen more of its fair share of tough opponents this season. While there will be plenty of the Black and Gold faithful in attendance at Camping World Stadium, it won’t be a 32-degree game at Kinnick. The Volunteers would be screwed then, but playing in Sunshine State will pose many issues to their offensive potency. 

Under 36.5

Before you ask, the answer is no. I will not ruin the fun by taking the over in this one. Rooting for points may be “fun,” but doing so in an Iowa game is a futile effort and borderline insane. If it weren’t for the Hawkeye offense’s questionable fumble in their own red zone and one missed tackle on a punt return, the highly-touted Michigan offense would have just  12 points in Indianapolis. Of course, banking on Iowa ball security against a ranked opponent is sort of a gamble, but that’s what this page is all about. 

Lock of the Week: Boise State +3 vs. UCLA

Yes, I’m finally taking an underdog this season. An underdog, who in my opinion, has defied the odds almost to the degree that Iowa has this season. On Nov. 12, Broncos head coach Andy Avalos was fired ten games into his third season on the job. He had compiled a 22-14 overall record with a 5-5 mark in 2023. The Broncos were still in the thick of things in the Mountain West, but decided to flip the script, as they were in danger of suffering their first losing season since 1997. Now with assistant Spencer Danielson at the helm, Boise State has won its past three games, taking the conference title while out-scoring its opponents, 116-49. After such dominance, Danielson was given the full-time gig, and his Broncos are rolling. 

Meanwhile, a week after upsetting USC, UCLA capped off its regular season with a 33-7 drubbing at the hands of California to fall to 7-5. Heading into the bowl game, multiple Bruins, including former five-star recruit quarterback Dante Moore, have announced they are entering the transfer portal. UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, who is on the heat seat himself, is not allowing those players to play or practice heading into the bowl game, per The Orange County Register’s James Williams. 

Yes, the game is in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium, so this will be more like a home game for the Bruins. But how many real sports fans live in California? Most likely less than half the total population of Idaho. Blue field or not, the Broncos’ revived season continues. 

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About the Contributors
Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @PeteyRuden Pete Ruden is the Pregame Editor at The Daily Iowan, where he has worked since the beginning of his college career. He has covered a variety of sports at the DI, including football, men's basketball, baseball, wrestling, and men's tennis. Currently a senior, he served as a sports reporter his freshman year, before becoming the Assistant Sports Editor and then Sports Editor his junior year.
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
he/him/his
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.